Caspian States Discuss Sea’s Legal Status

The thirty-third session of the ad hoc working group between the deputy foreign ministers of the Caspian states, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia and Turkmenistan held its two-day session in Baku on Sept. 12-13.

The meeting was attended by delegations from the five Caspian countries and washeaded by Deputy Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan Kairat Sarybay, Deputy Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Khalaf Khalafov, Special Representative of the Russian President for theDelimitation and Demarcation of the State Border of the Russian Federation and Neighbouring Countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States Igor Bratchikov, Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran for Legal and International Affairs Mohammed Mehdi Akhundzadeh, Chairman of the State-Owned Enterprisefor the Caspian Sea under the President of Turkmenistan Murad Atadjanov.

Before the meeting, Khalafov said the working group would continue discussions on the draft convention on the status of the Caspian Sea. The deputy minister also spoke of the next Caspian summit which will be held in Moscow.

Commenting on the timing of the next summit, the diplomat said that it will be held in Russia, but the date is not yet known.

Russia believes that in order to hold the summit, which will be between presidents,it is necessary to do some serious work to reach certain needed agreements.

Sarybay, the deputy foreign minister of Kazakhstan, noted at the press conference that the Russian initiative to hold the summit in 2014 metfull acceptanceinAstana.

“We intend to approach the upcoming summit of the heads of Caspian states with a decision from the previous summitheld in November 2010 in Baku. To do this, further work is needed. I believe that we can complement the package of documents for the upcoming summit with a few more decisions that focus on the further development of friendship and cooperation in the Caspian Sea,” Sarybay concluded.

Bratchikov said that there has been progress on the convention. He too made his statement at a press conference after the 33rdmeeting of the Group on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea, which was held in Baku.

“There is progress being made,maybe not as fast as we would like, but it is there,” the diplomat said. He stressed the need to work harder to achieve faster progress.

Deputy Foreign Minister Khalafov confirmed the findings of Bratchikov, who noted,“Most part of the convention was agreed upon,but there are still questions that need approval. There are differences in approach to certain issues and disagreements. We need some compromises, so we cancome to a unanimous decision,” he said.

Khalafov stated that the parties agreed to a peer exchange of views at the next meeting inMoscow, in particular on the procedure for determining baselines and submittingcorresponding mapping schemeswith baselines on them.

The previous meeting of the ad hoc working groupwas held in April this of year in Tehran.

The question of the legal status of the Caspian Sea materializedafter the collapse of the USSR, when the emergence of new subjects of international law –Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan – raised questionsabout the delimitation of the Caspian Sea between the five countries. Before thenand until now, the status of the Caspian Sea was regulated by a 1921treatybetween Russia and Persia and the 1940 agreement on trade and navigation between the Soviet Union and Iran.

The Caspian littoral states, (Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan and Iran) in November 2003, signed aframework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea.

In July 1998, an agreement on the delimitation of the bottom of the northern part of the Caspian Sea was signed between Kazakhstan and Russia, and in May 2002 – the protocol ofthis agreement was agreed upon. On Nov. 29, 2001 and Feb. 27, 2003 an agreement between Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan on the delimitation of the bottom of the Caspian Seawas signed and the protocol thereto were signed, respectively.

Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Russia,on May 14, 2003, signed an agreement on the delimitation of their adjacent sections of the Caspian Sea.

Following the meeting in Baku earlier in September, a communiqué was adopted, which outlined the progress made in harmonizing a number of provisions of the Convention and the need for further consultations was noted. It also clarifies that the parties agreed to hold an expert exchange of views at the next meeting on the methodology for formulating new boundaries and providing relevant mapping schemes.

The complexity of determining the status of the Caspian Sea stems fromthe debate over itsstatusas a lake or a sea, which is regulated by various provisions of international law. The negotiations on the establishment of a new legal status are still ongoing. As part of the process, there have been three meetings with participation fromthe heads of the Caspian states, the latest of which took place in November 2010 in Baku.

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